There aren’t many unifying factors tying together the top five underground albums on this week’s Bandcamping—considering that we have hip-hop, electronica, metal, and indie rock—but I will share something useful that should help artists not on this list: An article titled “Why Your Shitty Local Band Is Getting Nowhere Fast,” from the blog I Probably Hate Your Band.
Hating music for the sake of being a “discerning critic” whose favor is hard to earn is a flawed philosophy, but despite the blog’s name, that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, the post tells emerging bands how not to suck: dedicate yourself, have good artwork, be unique, branch out… it’s all common sense advice, yet it’s also often ignored. The thesis statement of the piece: “Bottom line is stop being outrageously boring. I hate hearing the same stupid shit from every band. Before you complain that none of these help your band, they do. They bring in new people from places you’d be surprised even exist. Usually your ex’s crotch.”
It’s a quick and fun read, so definitely check it out if you want to increase your chances of appearing on lists like this and even doing some more illustrious stuff in the future. Anyway, on to this week’s top 5:
5. XII by Mr. Al
Genre: southern hip-hop
If you like: Vince Staples, Kendrick Lamar
There’s admittedly nothing super innovative about this release, but that doesn’t stop it from being a completely competent contemporary hip-hop album. The Atlanta rapper has serviceable flow, and “Look Like Shit” is an interesting combination of “Drop It Like It’s Hot”-inspired percussion and instrumentals like Vince Staples or perhaps early Kanye West.
4. Marilyn by Ryan Holmberg
Genre: electronica, alternative, indie pop
If you like: Postal Service, Cut Copy, Dan Deacon
Don’t let the panda fool you: Holmberg has an electronica record on his hands that is anything but passive. Marilyn isn’t too far off from the Postal Service reunion that world has been salivating for since the mid-2000s, but despite drawing from a ten-year-old influence that helped define its era, Holmberg sounds completely relevant.
3. Focus People by Focus People
Genre: indie rock, indie pop
If you like: Death Cab For Cutie, Vulfpeck, Peter Bjorn and John
If you always wished that Death Cab For Cutie incorporated more influence from soul and jazz into their work, Focus People has your back. The Calgary-based indie rock band has a real chill vibe, like the best-case scenario local bar band in a college town. That’s not said to put Focus People on that level, but rather to say that it seems they capture the stylistic intent of groups like those in the best way possible.
2. The Great Cold by The Great Cold
Genre: post-metal, post-rock
If you like: Red Sparowes, God Is An Astronaut
Studies have shown that metal music is actually relaxing, and The Great Cold is really emphasizing that aspect of the genre on their self-titled debut. It’s intense, definitely, but the wall-of-sound effect and waves of dynamic range created by the rock-solid production allow the album to be treated as an ambient work, if so desired. The quality of the production is nothing to glaze over, because achieving a quality mix and master with loud genres with a lot of elements happening at once is not easy.
1. Demain est une autre nuit by Essaie Pas
Genre: electronic, minimal techno, indie pop
If you like: LCD Soundsystem, Chromatics, Lindstrøm
We might be stretching the definition of “underground” with this one, considering the Canadian duo was recently signed to James Murphy’s DFA Records, but still, this is their debut release and the group hasn’t quite reached the fan base they are sure to attract just yet. The fact that the music is in French might be an inhibiting factor for some listeners, but it actually adds a layer of exotica to the dark and minimal electronic instrumentation that puts it on a different plane from just about anything else out there at the moment.
And now for a couple releases that nearly cracked this week’s top 5:
The First Baboon Civilization by The First Baboon Civilization
Genre: experimental, world, jazz
If you like: Sun Ra, dissonance
The Figurant EP by The Figurant
Genre: metal, math rock, progressive rock
If you like: Battles, Tool
That’s all for today, but until our next installment, let us know in the comments which of our selected albums were your favorites, what we missed, and what we should look forward to. If you missed out on last week’s list, you can find it here (and the complete Bandcamping archives are here).